A man once branded the country's worst real estate agent has reinvented himself as a grocer and says he's turned over a new leaf.
Aaron Drever is the man behind the Grocer's Market, opening in the same building as the former Nosh store on Dominion Rd in Mt Eden.
The Nosh chain closed its doors owing Inland Revenue $242,223 in unpaid GST and PAYE, according to a liquidator's report.
Inland Revenue launched proceedings against the chain after the company was put in receivership by director Andrew Phillips in July.
After IRD issued the proceedings, the company was put into liquidation.
The liquidator's report from RES Corporate Recovery Insolvency showed IRD was owed $242,223 by Nosh, while employees' claims were at $324,200.
The former real estate salesman once made over $1 million per year in commission and has sold more than 500 homes.
But Drever was stripped of his real estate license in November last year after receiving nine adverse disciplinary findings from the Real Estate Agents' Disciplinary Tribunal.
Drever had worked in real estate since he was 18. Now he's 34, and stepping into a new career that he admits he knows nothing about.
"My dad passed away in June and I decided the best way to deal with the grief was to keep myself busy, so I submerged myself in this."
In August Drever bought the Nosh brand from the company's receivers, including fittings, the company's intellectual property and supplier networks. But most of the 380-odd suppliers had been burnt by Nosh and convincing them to come back was a struggle.
By Friday the Dominion Rd store's doors are set to open to the public, and Drever is cautiously optimistic.
He has to be - he says he has poured capital into the business and remortgaged his house, understood to be worth more than $1 million, in order to pay suppliers and staff up front. If the ship sinks, Drever says he'll go down with it.
He's brought back as many Nosh staff as he could find and is paying them out of his back pocket while the store is being set up.
The store looks like Nosh, but different. Drever wants the store to be known as Auckland's fresh food market. He's doubled the grocery offering, put in a new cafe, and added more "everyday" items like laundry powder to encourage people to do their whole shop there.
And he says he's paying all suppliers up front for their stock, so if it sits on the shelf it's all on him.
"We buy everything upfront. I've had to personally guarantee against my house every purchase."
It's understandable why suppliers might be cautious. Articles about Drever's chequered business dealings aren't hard to find online. His disciplinary tribunal record - two misconduct findings and seven of unsatisfactory conduct - is the worst of any New Zealand real estate agent.
One decision against him said the public needed to be protected against him after he pressured a female client to withdraw a complaint. The Real Estate Agents Authority committee labelled the action "tantamount to blackmail".
In another case when he brought a customer to view a property, he said to the owners words to the effect of "Shut your mouth, don't say a word, they're my clients".
At the time Drever variously blamed a lack of supervision, a high workload, ADHD, depression and anxiety for his failings as an agent. But a judge at the time said Drever had been given repeated warnings, suggesting he was unable to change or lift his standards.
"I don't think that my real estate career has done me any favours. But unlike previous owners of this group I have decided to put my money where my mouth is and have put a personal guarantee on it," Drever says.
"Do I miss selling houses? Yeah. I was fairly successful in some areas of that business. Administration probably wasn't one of them."
The areas that were a "weakness" - admin and HR "and all that stuff" - "I've employed people here that do that to ensure that - I don't want to lose my home, and I think we have an opportunity to put together a good brand and a good business".
It's a fresh start, he says. But there will be people waiting for the business to fall over.
"At some point in life you have to be able to be given an opportunity to rebuild. This is my opportunity to prove that I am going to do a good job by everything."
Drever has brought in a former Progressives employee and one from Moore Wilson's to give him retail advice.
"They say, 'Oh we should look at stocking that sauerkraut', or this or that. I didn't even know we had sauerkraut."
He insists this time nobody else will take the fall if things go wrong - except those staff that have placed their trust in him.
"There's me and 43 staff members who live and die on my ability to present [this] to the market," he says.
Drever has been leaving the store at 3am in the leadup to opening.
"There wouldn't be one square inch of the place that I haven't swept myself or mopped or crawled through to rewire...I've never worked so hard in my entire life as what I've been working now."
The suggestion that bigger supermarkets could be eyeing the store up if it goes well "has been mentioned" but he insists he's not chasing them - although he would look at what they're offering.
"I believe there's a vision for this place. I'd like to own more of them. We want to get this one right, get it perfect...and then go right, where else would this work?"
The store was set to open today, but VIP Club members received an email early this morning informing them that "technical difficulties" had delayed the official opening. Customers were "more than welcome to come by for a look-see", but would not be able to buy anything, it said.
It now looks set to open on Friday.